North America

Less Than a Month After DOJ Brings Its First Wage-Fixing Indictment, DOJ Brings Its First “No-Poach” Indictment

In the past month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made good on its 2016 threat, contained in its Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals (“Antitrust Guidance”) to bring criminal charges against people or corporations who enter into naked wage-fixing agreements or naked no-poach agreements.   First, as reported here, on December 9, 2020, DOJ obtained an indictment against the president of a staffing company who allegedly violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring with competitors to “fix wages” paid to physical therapists (PT) and physical therapist assistants (PTA).  Although not mentioned in the indictment, a related Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint alleged that the defendant agreed with competing staffing companies to lower wages after a client unilaterally lowered the rates paid to the defendant for PT and PTA services.  On January 7, 2021, DOJ announced a second indictment, which alleged that two corporations operating outpatient medical care facilities violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by reaching “naked no poach agreements” with two competitors, pursuant to which they agreed not to solicit each other’s “senior-level employees.”

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Under the Heroes Act, Employers can Help Pay your Student Loans

On December 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that provides extended relief for qualified student loan borrowers. Known as the “Heroes Act,” the stimulus package is a win for borrowers seeking student loan repayment from their employers.

The initial $2.2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed in March 2020 – the “Cares Act” –temporarily expanded Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “IRC”) to permit employers to make tax-free payments of up to $5,250 during calendar year 2020 towards employees’ qualified federal and private student loans. Prior to the Cares Act, employers were permitted under IRC Section 127 to make tax-free payments of up to $5,250 per year under an education assistance program towards an employee’s qualified educational expenses, which included, for example, tuition and books, but not student loan repayments.

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DON’T SMILE AT THE CAMERA — NEW BIOMETRIC DATA LAWS

Biometric data is seen as a preferred means of identification by many businesses. Unlocking a smartphone using facial recognition and other biometric identifiers, for example, gives users the feeling as if they are more protected (e.g., less risk of identity theft). However, similar to the boom in privacy developments and legislation related to the collection and use of more traditional personal information, the growth of biometric data use by businesses, law enforcement, employers and other organizations has given rise to renewed privacy concerns and legal developments.

While there is no uniform federal biometric data privacy law, several states either have existing laws or are in the process of drafting or ratifying new laws. Although it remains to be seen how such legislation will change the industry’s use of and reliance upon biometric data, that it is increasingly the subject of analysis and discussion indicates a demand and a need for reasonable security and privacy practices around the collection and processing of biometric data, whether required by law or not. Read more…

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Maryland Employers: Are You Complying with Slate of New Employment Laws?

On October 1, 2020, numerous laws in Maryland providing expanded protections for both existing employees and job applicants addressing race and sex discrimination, pay equity, and wage transparency went into effect.  As we begin a new year, employers should review these new laws to ensure compliance.

Expansion of Employers’ Notification and Reporting Obligations for Workforce Layoffs

Maryland has instituted its own version of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN”) Act with the passage of H.B. 1018/S.B. 780. This “mini” WARN Act revises the Economic Stabilization Act (Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 11-301, 11-302) (“Act”) to require private employers with 50 or more employees to provide advance written notice of a “reduction in operations” to all impacted employees, any union representatives, the Maryland Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker Unit, and all elected officials representing impacted jurisdictions.  Covered employers must provide such notice at least 60 days before the start of any “reduction in operations,” which includes a decrease in the workforce by “at least 25% or 15 employees, whichever is greater,” over any 3-month period, as well as relocation of part of an employer’s operations to another site.

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Video: The EEOC Under President Biden – Employment Law This Week

As featured in #WorkforceWednesday:  With President-Elect Biden’s inauguration next week, and the Democrats taking a narrow majority in both houses of Congress, we’re likely to see shifts in policy at the agencies that regulate employment. Attorney Robert O’Hara discusses what we’re likely to see coming out of the EEOC in the near term, and how the change in party control could affect the agency moving forward.

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Organizations Should Plan in 2021 to Comply with The California Privacy Rights Act’s Enhanced Cybersecurity Safeguards

The California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”) leaps forward on cybersecurity by amending the California Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”) to impose enhanced protections. The CPRA enhancements apply to “for profit” companies and other organizations: (a) with more than $25 million in gross revenues in the preceding calendar year, or (b) that annually buy, sell or share the personal information of 100,000 or more consumers or households, or (c) that derive at least 50 percent of their annual revenue from selling or sharing consumer personal information (“businesses”).[1] Those businesses must:

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Video: Biden Picks Labor Nominee – Employment Law This Week

As featured in #WorkforceWednesday:  President-Elect Biden has chosen Marty Walsh to serve as Labor Secretary in his administration. Walsh is Boston’s mayor and a former top union leader. Attorney David Garland tells us more.

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Trade Secrets Law 25 Years After PepsiCo Disclosure Case – Law360 Article

Our colleagues Peter Steinmeyer and Brian Spang have co-authored an article in Law360, titled “Trade Secrets Law 25 Years After PepsiCo Disclosure Case.” (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued what many at the time perceived as a landmark decision, PepsiCo Inc. v. Redmond, in which the court applied the concept of inevitable disclosure of trade secrets to affirm an injunction prohibiting a senior executive from taking a similar position at a direct competitor.

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Connecticut Non-Compete Laws: 2021 Update

We’re pleased to share the 2021 update of “Non-Compete Laws: Connecticut,” a Q&A guide published by Thomson Reuters Practical Law.

Following is an excerpt (see below to download the full version in PDF format):

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The U.S. Department of Labor Releases Final Wage and Hour Opinion Letters of 2020

To close out 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) recently issued two new opinion letters addressing overtime payments for caregivers and travel time for partial-day teleworkers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  We recommend a close review of these opinion letters as they offer a helpful overview of key FLSA principles and may provide answers to questions shared by numerous employers.

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